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How Do the Caucuses Work? How Do the Caucuses Work?

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Campaign 2012

How Do the Caucuses Work?

Here we go.

The 2012 presidential election season will kick off on Tuesday evening when Republicans gather in schools and homes across Iowa to cast their votes among nine GOP hopefuls.


Votes will be reported for Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Jon Huntsman, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Buddy Roemer, Mitt Romney, and Rick Santorum. Ballots for Herman Cain, who dropped out of the race last month, will also be tallied. Iowans who are undecided or don’t support any of those candidates can express “no preference” or cast a vote for “other.”

Tuesday’s victor won’t necessarily go on to win the GOP nomination. The 2008 Republican candidate, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., came in fourth in Iowa. National Journal’s George Condon writes that for the candidates, doing better than expected is more important than receiving the most votes.

Iowans will gather at 7 p.m. CST to cast their votes in 1,774 precincts.


After saying the Pledge of Allegiance, each precinct will elect a caucus chair and secretary to run the meeting. Next, representatives from each campaign will speak on behalf of their candidate. Voters write down their candidate preferences on sheets of paper that are passed around, collected, counted, recorded, and announced to the caucus.

To be eligible, caucus-goers must turn 18 by the November 2012 election and be registered Republicans, although participants can register on Tuesday evening.

Just under 119,000 Iowans voted in the 2008 caucuses. Weather can affect attendance. Today is expected to be sunny and in the low 40s in Des Moines.

Those interested can view results on Tuesday night as they become available at and The complete, certified breakdown of caucus votes, with results divided by precinct, will be released within two weeks.

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